A young girl looked down at a map of Indiana and pointed to a yellow star in the center of Monroe County.
“Mom, is that where we are?” Sara Buehler, 8, asked.
“That’s right,” her mother, Chris Buehler, said. “The torch is here today.”
The Buehlers were visiting the celebration for Indiana’s bicentennial on the Monroe County Courthouse lawn. The Bicentennial Torch has been passing through each of the state’s 92 counties since Sept. 9, and it was Monroe County’s turn Tuesday.
“We want to represent and celebrate everything our part of Indiana stands for and has to offer,” said Teal Strabbing, a member of the Bicentennial Planning Committee. “An anniversary of such a big year is really a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”
The torch relay started in Ellettsville, Indiana, and the celebration started at the courthouse. Representatives from Hoosier National Forest, Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs, the Monroe County Public Library, the Monroe County History Center and several other organizations set up informational booths. The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts offered games for kids.
The Bloomington Brass Quintet played on the courthouse steps, and visitors walked through a museum of notable Indiana natives and their accomplishments. Meanwhile, the torch traveled by foot, bike and car through the county, across campus, down Kirkwood Avenue and to a cauldron at the courthouse celebration.
Sara Buehler said she wasn’t sure what was special about Indiana, but she was there that afternoon to find out. She walked past a limestone carving demonstration and asked her brother, Ben, whether they had limestone where they lived. She listened to her mother talk about her time at IU and asked whether she could go there for college, too.
But for many of the other people at the courthouse, the bicentennial celebration represented some of their favorite parts of their life and history in Indiana.
For Casey Winningham, life in Indiana revolves around its stone. Winningham carves and letters custom headstones made from Indiana limestone and has lived in the state for 61 years. He and several other carvers worked on headstones and sculptures for passersby to look at the celebration.
“I try to use my art to honor the people who have passed and give them the respect they deserve,” Winningham said. “And I do it with the stone that means so much to me and to the history of our state.”
For Sharon Stoddard, a Bloomington resident for 38 years, life has a lot to do with music. Stoddard’s husband plays the drums in the Bloomington Brass Quintet and the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra every week, and she listens to him play as often as she can.
“This part of Indiana doesn’t have a lot of hustle and bustle, but there’s always plenty to do,” Stoddard said. “And look at all the culture and music we have right in front of us.”
And for Elizabeth Mitchell, who has lived in Bloomington since 1979, Indiana’s most important thing is the people. Mitchell spent the last year working with IU faculty member Gladys DeVane, IU and Bloomington city administration to write a play about Indiana for the bicentennial.
“Everyone here has a story and we live in a place where, in my experience, people want to know and help you,” Mitchell said. “So many people could choose to live somewhere else, but look how much love people have for where we live.”